The Hartlepool Monkey


A note said to have been found in the private collections of Durham University, where it was placed, if the records are to be believed, by one who claimed to have found it on a beach near Hartlepool in northern England in the early 19th century


I will begin by stating that I was raised in far, far finer circumstances than this, the palace of Versailles no less.

 As a cub, not long weaned from my mother’s hairy breast I was cruelly wrenched from her and the cage in the shabby commercial menagerie we knew as our whole world: a dark backroom full of dirty wooden boxes and filled with the groans and cries and squawks of whichever other pitiful creatures their network of “Hunters” had managed to collect for pay.

  Mewling, I was thrust into a rough sack and carried out of the storeroom, through the front shop and into the street. A terrifying contraption, that I now know to have been no more that a six wheeled horse drawn carriage, stood before me as I pressed my eye to a small hole in the opening of the sack. On the back of this conveyance there stood a shiny wooden trunk and the oaf who bore me opened a lid on its upper side and threw me in as though I were a bag of beans.

When next I saw light I was on a vast and smooth expanse of grass and facing me were two small human children, a girl of around six years and a boy of three: these were, apparently,  Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, the Madame Royale, and  Louis Joseph Xavier François, Dauphin of France. To me they were hairless playmates and the twin stars by which, from now on, my world was to be lit.

Of my time at Versailles I have spoken elsewhere and need not trouble my reader with further details beyond a few salient points that have a bearing on the present situation, wherein I am held on a foul and rain drenched English beach by a gang of ruffians who surely intend to hang me until I am dead.

The first of these points is that I can speak. I can speak and read and write and understand as well as any educated Frenchman, and better than many for that matter. Why it should be so I have no idea at all. Am I a freak? Are my entire race as capable as I or would they at least prove so given similar circumstances? I cannot say, but it is so, I speak.

Revealing my abilities when I first made the error of speaking to anyone except the children caused such commotion that I made a point of never doing so again without extremely good cause. Such a contingency seldom arose and in the revolutionary chaos that engulfed my adopted land in 1789 taciturnity seemed even wiser than it had previously.

I ended up the “property” of a drunken first mate on a ship of his emperor’s, navy tasked with the patrolling of the north British coast. I had suffered from prolonged sea sickness and the violent whims of my new “master” for a year before this present tragedy befell me. On my third night aboard that wretched vessel, the first mate, in his delirium decided it best to throw me over board, having somehow convinced himself that I was a devil of some kind, his education in natural history had not, I assume, been significant.

And so I spoke once more, at the risk of confirming his worst fears as to my infernal origins, but I spoke quickly and, fortunately, he was very stupid. And took me to the Captain, Jacques de Gouges.

  While no Voltaire himself, Monsieur Le Gouges was a man with a capable mind, as far as any military man can be said to have a mind.

Be that as it may, he saw at once an opportunity for me to serve the glory of France, and set the ship’s doctor to teaching me English. And English, though a vulgar, even primitive tongue came to me with the same facility as had the glorious language of Diderot and Racine. When we captured an English sailor I was set to interrogating him and when Idle I took to perusing the scribbling of your Shakespeare and Milton.

Little good it has done me amongst these men of Hartlepool: if their language is English I cannot recognise it as such. Theirs is a guttural speech with vowels that seem to have been beaten with hammers.

Whether the Captain intended to send me ashore here I know not: if there is significant intelligence to be gained here I have not found it. But, either way a storm rose and the winds of this bitter sea threw our craft onto the rocks, my cage floated and I with it, our mission has failed.

My task was to go ashore north of here and travel down the coast discerning what I could of coastal defences and troop movements that might be of value to his Highness the Emperor in his endeavour to invade this sorry island. Then I was to meet the ship once more near some town which bears the singularly unattractive name of Hull.

 The realisation that I will never have to set eyes on this “Hull” is almost enough to make me welcome the noose I see these fools fashioning on the mast of their primitive fishing craft. The same mast they tied me to in order to interrogate me as a spy. One there was, by the name of Kenneth, who saw the foolishness of interrogating a monkey as a spy and cursed them for the oafs they are, but curse my luck, he is a Yorkshire man, whatever that might be and they dismiss his every word as the blathering of a bewildered child.

Ach, they are done, their grisly work is prepared, I see them approach through the bars of this lobster basket in which they flung me onto this dark and hopeless rain swept beach, I hasten I must end this scribbling.

Vive le France Long live "Napoléon, de la République, Empereur des Français".

Mon Dieu. They come…